Hyponatremia is a common problem in older people. As per studies, approximately 6.1 million people in the US suffer from hyponatremia every year. It occurs when the sodium levels in the blood are low or when you have excessive water in the blood. Senior citizens who have this condition are at high risk of developing delirium. Because, several studies have already shown the strong association between hyponatremia and delirium.
Hyponatremia in the Elderly: Why Senior Citizens Are at High Risk?
Hyponatremia or low blood sodium occurs in senior citizens, especially in hospitalized patients. Low blood sodium in the elderly is mainly caused by medications. Since hospitalized patients are more likely to take medications on a regular basis, they are at high risk.
Sign and Symptoms of Hyponatremia in Older People
Senior citizens with low sodium levels often have the following signs and symptoms:
- Altered personality
- Lethargy and sluggishness
Severe hyponatremia can be life-threatening for older adults. This is why; proper treatment is necessary.
Hyponatremia Risk Factors
- Certain antidepressant medications
- Drugs that cause frequent urination
- Chronic kidney disease, heart problems, or liver disease
- Underactive adrenal glands or thyroid
- Certain health issues like urinary tract infections and pneumonia
Physicians often choose to change medications that affect the patient’s sodium level. Thus, they treat patients. The patients are also advised to change the amount of salt in their diet or the amount of water they drink daily.
Delirium: Its Symptoms and Causes
Delirium, a state of mental confusion occurs due to a sudden change in the brain. Older adults who have been diagnosed with delirium often have the following signs and symptoms:
- Poor thinking skills
- Difficulty speaking
- Poor memory
- Sleep disorders
- Anxiety and so on.
Patients who have had surgery are at high risk. However, delirium may also occur because of the following causes – alcohol and drug withdrawal, certain medical conditions like liver disease and heart attack, sleep deprivation, etc.
Hyponatremia and Delirium: How They Are Associated?
Hyponatremia and delirium are common health issues in senior citizens, especially in elderly hospitalized patients. As per studies, hyponatremia in older patients with certain health conditions is associated with delirium.
Among the several factors that contribute to delirium, hyponatremia, or low blood sodium is undoubtedly a major one. Older patients with low sodium or low calcium levels often have delirium symptoms due to metabolic imbalances.
A study, published by PMC revealed how hyponatremia is associated with delirium. As we have come to know from that study, hyponatremia is pretty much common in hospitalized senior citizens. In fact, patients with mild hyponatremia symptoms are at high risk of delirium. Hyponatremia can be life-threatening for hospitalized patients, even if they don’t have delirium. Therefore, patients need immediate medical attention.
Although hyponatremia is common in the hospitalized elderly and is a major risk factor for delirium, it is treatable. While treating patients, physicians often use some common treatments, including a fluid restriction, taking medications for managing symptoms like nausea, headaches, and seizures, adjusting the diuretic dosage, etc. With proper diagnoses and treatment, hyponatremia patients could be treated. Also, they will be at low risk for developing delirium. Elderly hospitalized patients should be aware of hyponatremia symptoms and seek immediate medical attention in case they have any signs.